International Photo Contest Winners Announced

2010 April 1

Winners of the International Earth and Sky Photo Contest on Dark Skies Importance are announced by The World at Night and Dark Skies Awareness projects. Submissions to the contest had been received during the second half of International year of Astronomy 2009. Submitted photographs were all taken during the year of astronomy and were all created in the “TWAN style”—showing both the Earth and the sky—by combining elements of the night sky set against the Earth horizon with backdrop of a notable location or landmark. This style of photography is called “landscape astrophotography.”

The contest was open to anyone of any age, anywhere around the world. About 200 entries were received from over 30 countries including Algeria, Armenia, Bangladesh, Canada, Chile, Columbia, Croatia, France, Greece, Iceland, Indonesia, India, Iran, Italy, Macedonia, Nepal, Norway, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, UK, and USA. Nearly 30% of the entries were from the United States. Other major contributors were Romania, Iran, and Poland.

According to the contest theme of “Dark Skies Importance,” the submitted photos were judged in two categories: “Beauty of the Night Sky” and “Against the Lights.” The selected images are those most effective in impressing people on both how important and amazing the starry sky is and how it affects our lives, and also how bad the problem of light pollution has become. Today, most city skies have become virtually empty of stars. Light pollution obscures the stars, interferes with astronomical observatories and, like any other form of pollution, disrupts ecosystems and has adverse health effects.

The contest organizers wish to gratefully acknowledge the assistance of Oceanside Photo and Telescope (OPT) in supporting the contest with variety of prizes. Other contributing sponsors include Celestron, Meade, Explore Scientific, Stellarvue, Astrodon, and Starlight Instruments. The contest was also supported by Sky&Telescope, a world’s leading astronomy magazine, with several gift subscriptions for the winners, and the University of Hawaii with technical support and server hosting for the contest submissions.

The Photo Contest and Global Astronomy Month: the winner announcement of the Earth and Sky Photo Contest at the beginning of April is part of the opening of worldwide activities coordinated by Astronomers Without Borders – for the Global Astronomy Month – a new annual program for the worldwide astronomy community to share the beauty of the night sky with others and connect with other astronomy enthusiasts around the world.

Contest Judging
The first selection and voting was made by TWAN world-wide photographers. The photos receiving the most votes in the preliminary selection were then considered by the contest judge team for five winners in each category of the contest. The team of judges included:
David Malin (Widely considered the most distinguished night sky photographer in the world; TWAN member and consultant.)
Mike Simmons (President of Astronomers Without Borders, and TWAN co-founder; contributing editor at Sky & Telescope magazine).
Connie Walker (Director of the Dark Sky Awareness project and Globe at Night program; senior science education specialist at the U.S. National Optical Astronomy Observatory.)
Richard Wainscoat (Photographer and astronomer at the University of Hawaii; and chair of the International Astronomical Union’s Commission on Controlling Light Pollution.)
Babak Tafreshi (Founder and director of TWAN; award-winning night sky photographer; and board member of Astronomers Without Borders.)

Contest Winners
The overall first-place winner of the contest and the highest voted by the TWAN team is “Temple Night” by Chris Kotsiopoulos from Greece, presenting a panoramic view from the Poseidon temple at Cape Sounion in Greece. The photo shows a starry sky in one direction and the immense light pollution of Athens toward the other horizon. Placed in the contest category of Against the Lights, the photo won an Explore Scientific 127mm refractor telescope and a $150 gift certificate from OPT. As noted by David Malin, “A powerful wide-angle picture that meets all the criteria of the competition with style, technical skill, and in an elegant composition.”

The first prize in the Beauty of the Night Sky category is “Full Moon Rainbow” by Tony Rowell who receives a Celestron CG5 computerized telescope mount. The photo is taken from Yosemite Falls in California on a moonlit night. As noted by David Malin, “It’s a strong, beautifully executed composition, blending a starry night sky, moonlight, and a magnificent landscape in a most imaginative way.”

“Milky Way above Romania” by Cristina Tinta Vass is the second-place winner in the Against the Light category, receiving the prize of a 70mm ED Stellarvue refractor telescope and a $150 gift certificate from OPT. As noted by Babak Tafreshi, “The splendid Milky Way above the light dome of a city is very dramatic in this photo, showing the contrast between the natural look of the sky and artificially light-dominated cities.”

The second-place winner in the Beauty of the Night Sky category is “Lighthouse and Stars” by Larry Andreasen, receiving the prize of Meade LXD75 computerized telescope mount. The photo is taken from the coast of Oregon in the U.S.A., framing a seaside starry night and powerful rays from a lighthouse. As noted by TWAN member John Goldsmith, “It’s a surreal, mystical image.”

The other winners in the Against the Lights category are:
Third place: “Observatory and Capital” by Mahdi Zamani who receives a $300 gift certificate from OPT. The Iranian night sky photographer made this panoramic image from Byurakan Observatory near Yerevan, the capital of Armenia. The Moon sets in the right, and lights of the nearby city dominate the southern view of the observatory. As noted by Babak Tafreshi, “There are many leading observatories of the past decades which are now severely affected by lights from enlarging cities.”
Fourth place: “Lights of Los Angeles” by Ali Douraghy who receives a $200 gift certificate from OPT and a one-year subscription to Sky & Telescope. The panoramic photo shows the lights of this metropolitan area as seen from the Griffith Observatory. As noted by David Malin “What a spectacular waste of energy! And what a spectacle, all the way to Santa Catalina Island.”
Fifth place: “Lights vs. Stars” by Fredrik Broms who receives a $130 gift certificate from OPT and a one-year subscription to Sky & Telescope. The image is taken near Kvaloya in Norway. As TWAN member Anthony Ayiomamitis notes, “It’s good and evil—one photo that shows both dark skies and light polluted skies.”

The other winners in the Beauty of Night Sky category are:
Third place: “Stargazers” by Valentin Grigore who receives an Astrodon 1.25” H-alpha 5nm filter and a one-year subscription to Sky & Telescope. The photo is taken during a public observing night above a hill overlooking Targoviste, a city in Romania. The Moon and Venus are coupled in the evening sky. As noted by Mike Simmons, “It’s a great composition of people and sky even though there aren’t many stars.”
Fourth place: “Pine Tree Startrails” by Miguel Claro who receives a $200 gift certificate from OPT and a one-year subscription to Sky & Telescope. The photo is taken in a pine forest near the Atlantic coast of Portugal. The long exposure time of about 90 minutes caused the colorful startrails.
Fifth place: “Starry Night of Croatia” by Vid Nikolic who receives a $130 gift certificate from OPT and a one-year subscription to Sky & Telescope. The wide-angle photo is taken by a digital DSLR camera in black and white mode and shows the starry sky above Sjeverni Velebit National Park in Croatia.

All the winning photos are also slated to appear on the TWAN Guest Gallery. There are over 30 more photos which are positively voted by TWAN members and the judges. These are shown in this photo report and will appear on the Guest Gallery in the near future.

The International Earth and Sky photo contest was the second competition held in collaboration with The World at Night. The first contest was regionally organized in South America and India. TWAN plans to have new international and regional contests in the future. Contact us for more information.

Oceanside Photo and Telescope Message
Statement by Craig Weatherwax on behalf of OPT Telescope, the main sponsor for the contest prizes:
“OPT Telescopes is proud to have been a sponsor for the International Earth and Sky Photo contest, focusing on dark skies’ importance. We wish to congratulate the winners on their thoughtful and stunning images. As president and CEO of OPT it is rewarding to see the application of astronomy equipment in such a beautiful way. I am reminded of my first exposure to the wonders of the night sky and the Universe, of which we are such a small part.
We wish to thank the manufacturers whose generosity is responsible for the awards: Celestron, Meade, Stellarvue, Explore Scientific, Astrodon and Starlight Instruments.
Congratulations to TWAN and Dark Skies Awareness for not only the stellar job they did with the contest, but for the way in which they are bringing awareness to “one sky, one world”. Thank you for letting OPT participate in this event. We look forward to helping in the future.”

See other notable photos in the contest selected by TWAN members and the judges.


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